GETTING TO KNOW BOOKREPORTER.COM’S INFLUENTIAL BOOK REVIEWER JOE HARTLAUB

With the start of the new year and my blog still being pretty new I wanted to have a special feature every now and then that either highlights a book discussion topic or showcases someone interesting in the book world! When I think of an interesting person in the book world I need look no further than my good friend and fellow book reviewer Joe Hartlaub. I met Joe almost 3 years ago when I reviewed for Bookreporter.com for a short time. I had read his reviews every week and thoroughly enjoyed his reviewing style and recommendations. I wrote to him asking for advice on reviewing and he graciously took the time to help out a newbie and a friendship was born. I always like discussing all things books and authors with Joe as we have very similar interests in genres and he has THE BEST stories about happenings in the world of books, authors and publishing!! So, welcome to my blog Joe and thanks so much for taking the time to answer some reviewing questions and share some of your advice, recommendations, and stories with us!! Oh and you won’t want to miss Joe’s Top Reads of 2016, so let’s get started…

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m 65. I am married and have 3.75 adult children, as well as a granddaughter who is 10 going on 22. I currently live in the Columbus, Ohio area. I’ve been a practicing attorney for forty years and specialize in intellectual property law. To date I’ve had several short stories published, one of which — “Starlets and Spaceboys” — has been optioned for film. And speaking of film, I have a feature role in the film LA-308. Oh, and I review books for Bookreporter.com, too!

 How many years have you been with Bookreporter.com and what led you to book reviewing?

I have been with Bookreporter.com for almost 20 years. Way back in 1997 The Book Report (as Book Reporter was known at that time) was the “Books” section for AOL. Life was different then. You dialed up on a dedicated phone line to access the internet — cell phones were only for talking — and AOL was the portal. I sent an email to one of TBR’s reviewers and started a correspondence. She asked me at one point if I was interested in reviewing. I said yes and we went from there.
Have you been a reader all your life? What are your current favorite genres? How, if at all, has your reading preferences or genre favorites changed over the years?

I have been reading since I was three years old My mom read me Rudy Kazootie books before I could read myself. I really learned to read myself when I discovered comic strips in newspapers. I LOVED Dick Tracy, The Phantom, and Prince Valiant. I went from there to comic books — which I still look at, occasionally — and then to detective fiction — everything from The Hardy Boys to Shell Scott — and science fiction. Isaac Asimov wrote a children’s science fiction series — Lucky Starr — under the name “Paul French” and that got me going into that genre. I don’t read much science fiction anymore but still read primarily mystery and detective fiction.

 You’ve reviewed thousands of books, how do you keep your reviews fresh?

I try to keep in mind that every single author spent months trying to produce something new and original that would interest people enough to read it. I figure that the least I can do in acknowledgement of that is spend a few minutes finding a new way to discuss it.
 What’s the best part of being a book reviewer? The worst or most challenging?
The best part is having access to so many new books. The worst part is not having the time to read and review everything I would like to. It seems like so much gets past me.
 Do you have a reviewing format as far as things you always make sure you discuss in reviews?
What has kind of evolved over time is a three paragraph review. The first paragraph tells something about the author and the series. The second discusses the book itself. The third tries to sum up the literary elements that I particularly enjoyed. I don’t hold to this as a hard and fast rule but more often than not it’s what happens.
 How do you tackle a review for a book that you didn’t particularly enjoy?
Ahhh…excellent question. At Bookreporter.com we try to steer readers toward books they might look, as opposed to away from books. When I read a book that I don’t particularly like I try to focus on two things: 1) just because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean that it’s a bad book. There are authors who are enormously popular who I don’t read for whatever reason. I accordingly try to evaluate the plot and characters and focus upon how well they hold the book together. 2) I made this statement on a panel several years ago — before ebooks and kindles and widespread self-publishing — and another reviewer took exception with it, but it’s true….every book that is traditionally published has some worth to it. It went through an agent, to an editor, and onward and upward. Those folks all saw something in it. That’s what I look for.
 What are some of your favorite book events you’ve attended and can you share any memorable author stories with us?

Bouchercon is always a good time. I haven’t been to a Thrillerfest for a while but they were fun as well and I imagine they still are. Killer Nashville is terrific. The folks who run it are first rate and Nashville is a wonderful city.

Memorable author stories? Oh yeah! I have a bunch of them. The most memorable one is driving to the first official Thrillerfest in Phoenix with the incomparable Marcus Wynne. We gave a few weapons instruction panels so we had a trunkload of shotguns, weapons, knives, and hand grenades, driving across he desert. My transmission went out in Phoenix so I was delayed a week, stuck in a seedy hotel room alone — Marcus had to get back to Illinois — with a roomful of weapons. And then things got worse. I met the wrong guy while my car was being fixed and got in the middle of some things and had to go a little over the top to get out of town. I’ll never forget that.

 What are your favorite titles that stand out for you over the last year or two?

THE EEL by David McKinnon immediately comes to mind, particularly because my reaction was a) how did he even conceive of this? and b) this is so beautifully written. Right now I’m reading DESPERATION ROAD by Michael Farris Smith which is so good that I’m deliberately pacing myself while I read it because I don’t want it to end. Your readers might especially like SECURITY by Gina Wohlsdorf, a very literate thriller which has contains multiple twists and has a very subtle dose of traditional romance thrown into the mix.

 What authors do you think everyone should be reading?
Oh, wow…James Lee Burke, James Sallis, Peter Farris, Cormac McCarthy, the late Larry Brown, Donald Ray Pollack, James O. Born, Robin Yocum, John Connolly, the late Elmore Leonard, David McKinnon…I could go on and on. I’ll think of several more by the time you post this and kick myself for not mentioning them.

 You also write for  Kill Zone Blog.com, how do you come up with your topics for those posts?

With great difficulty. It’s primarily an instructional writing site and I do not consider myself a good teacher. I usually fall back on an experience I’ve had and try to compare that to the writing life. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of that and hope to continue.
 What advice can you give reviewers/bloggers when it comes to writing reviews, creating interesting discussion posts, and just trying to keep it all fresh and creative?

Try to have fun with it. If you can’t get an idea or what you are writing seems boring to you go do something else, like listening to music or watching fifteen minutes of a series that is new to you before resuming your writing.
 Any projects in the works you’d like to share with us?

I’m working on a few things, but primarily a straight fiction, non-genre novel based on the experiences of a friend of mine from when he was in his mid-twenties. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing but it’s coming along nicely.

Thanks so much Joe and best of luck to you on your writing project , I for one will be first in line to read it…I’m sure I’ll get a coveted advanced copy (hint hint:) 

Be sure to stop by Bookreporter.com for all of Joe’s reviews as well as many others. They also run fun contests and sneak peaks!!

Now to finish off this fantastic interview I give you Joe’s Top Reads of 2016.…hopefully you find many new books to add to your already towering TBR’s:) 

JOE’S TOP READS OF 2016

Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
The employees of a new resort hotel are systematically being murdered on the eve of the property’s opening in this wonderfully literate and claustrophobic thriller by a debut author who along the way redefines heroism and romance. A must-read.

A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum
This gem of a book offers a mystery, a coming-of-age story, and a character study set in a place and time that is all but gone. Most of all, however, it is a wonderfully told story that deserves to be read over and over.

Willnot by James Sallis
One of fiction’s most reliable authors, well into his fifth decade of work, returns and yet once again rewrites the rules of constructing the mystery novel in this tale of a small town physician (and occasional veterinarian) who finds himself acting as a somewhat reluctant private investigator. It hopefully will be the first of a series.

The Jealous Kind by James Lee Burke
This 1950s period piece and coming-of-age tale contains a mystery at its heart. If The Hardy Boys series of the 1950s had been a series for adults and written by our finest contemporary author, it would have looked something like this.

Friday on My Mind  A Frieda Klein Mystery by Nicci French
This husband and wife writing team deserves far greater recognition than it has received for this superlative series involving Frieda Klein, a damaged and difficult psychotherapist, and this latest installment is the best of the lot so far.

Every Man a Menace by Patrick Hoffman
Read the first paragraph of this wonderfully dark, noir caper novel with five interlocking sections, and you will not stop reading until story’s end. Then pick up last year’s THE WHITE VAN.

IQ by Joe Ide
Just when you think you’ve read every permutation of protagonist there is, a debut author presents a quiet, realistic private investigator with genius level functioning and pragmatic compassion. I hope that this series runs until the end of time.

Bronx Requiem by John Clarkson
Veteran author John Clarkson surpasses the significant expectations that he created last year with AMONG THIEVES in this sophomore installment of a series concerning a group of hardened ex-cons who attempt to assist newly released offenders and often find themselves on the wrong end of both sides of the law. Gritty and memorable.

A Time of Torment A Charlie Parker Thriller by John Connolly
My bucket list includes re-reading all of the Charlie Parker books from alpha to present, and A TIME OF TORMENT is the latest reason why, as Parker, recovering from serious injuries, leaves his familiar Maine environs to confront an ancient evil in West Virginia.

The EEl by David MacKinnon
David MacKinnon is one of the best and smartest authors out there, and THE EEL, which defies classification and a short summary, is an instant old school and new school classic dealing with a failed author obsessed with the life, work and death of Blaise Cendrars, among many other things. It informs, challenges and entertains from first page to last.

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

My Pick this week is:

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Published June 2011 by Penguin 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over. 

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This book ticks a lot of my favorite must read boxes….funny, engaging, dramatic and characters I can connect with and root for. Although I only have 2 kids, I could put myself in Alice’s shoes and wonder what would happen if I went to spinning class (which I used to do but no longer..it’s hard😅), fell off my bike, hit my head and woke up believing I was 10 years younger and my life was peachy only to find out…nope, life is not all that good right now. If you like a well written dramatic read with humor, wisdom, and great characterization you’ll love What Alice Forgot!

Happy Reading!

Have you read this or think you’d like to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments

For more Throwback Thursday recommendations visit Rebecca The Book Whisperer at Boofsbooks.com and Nikki at The Secret Library Site

BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW: CURSED By Thomas Enger (translated by Kari Dickson)

I’m beyond thrilled to welcome everyone to my stop on the blog tour for Thomas Enger’s CURSED which was published Jan 21,2017 by the wonderful Orenda Books

 

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Blurb

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to another persodeath. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex- wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history. Chilling, gritty and unputdownable, Cursed marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers.

 

MY REVIEW

This week appears to be Thomas Enger week on my blog as I just reviewed Pierced (book 2) on Monday and today the spotlight shines on his new novel Cursed. I have to say I couldn’t be happier to highlight such a fantastic author and his books, I would highly encourage all of you reading this to put him at the very top of your must read lists…you won’t be sorry!!

Cursed starts off with a prologue that left me breathless! Thomas Enger propels us into the story with an event that I wasn’t quite prepared for, but was an absolute zinger of a way to start off the novel.  We are then introduced to Nora, an investigative journalist who works for Aftenposten and is also Henning Juul’s ex-wife. If you’ve read any of Enger’s previous books you know Henning Juul is also an investigative journalist working for 123News and that he and Nora split up after their son was killed in an arson fire (meant to kill Henning) while staying with Henning at his flat. If you haven’t read the previous novels (I’ve only read Pierced) fear not because Enger does an amazing job of cluing readers in on the backstory of Henning and his ongoing investigation into who set fire to his flat, killing his son.

The story moves forward at breakneck pace, alternating between Nora’s perspective as she investigates Hedda Hellberg’s disappearance and Henning’s as he delves further into his investigation of the possible parties responsible for the death of his son. Both Henning and Nora will come to find that their own lives are at risk as they uncover long buried secrets and lies that have led certain people to kill to keep buried….and who will undoubtedly kill again to make sure they stay buried.

What Enger does flawlessly is put the reader into the hearts and minds of Henning and Nora by immersing us into each and every scene with such precise, vivid prose and dialogue that we can’t help but feel a connection to these characters. I was deeply invested in both Nora and Henning’s investigations and felt compelled to keep turning the pages as quickly as possible because I could sense the imminent danger surrounding each of them. The use of short chapters also helped to create additional tension.  Little by little,  the threads of each investigation start to entangle and what is left is nothing short of a masterfully plotted web of deceit, betrayals and murder.

I’m going to be honest here…my detective skills are nowhere near the level needed to have accurately put together this jigsaw puzzle of a plot and I can’t tell you how happy that made me! Thomas Enger is at the TOP of his storytelling game with this novel. Not since reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series have I felt so riveted by characters and plot…until now. And the ending…utter perfection! Needless to say, I will be anxiously awaiting 2018 and book 5; in the meantime, I’ll be going back and reading Burned (book 1) and finishing Scarred (book 3).

5/5 Stars

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Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

 

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Many Thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Thomas Enger for my copy of CURSED and including me on the blog tour. I’m happy to provide an honest review

CURSED was published January 21,2017 by Orenda Books and can be purchased at AmazonThe Book Depository and Orenda’s Ebookstore

Make sure to stop by all the fantastic blogs on the tour!

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Praise for Thomas Enger

‘Thomas Enger is one of the finest writers in the Nordic Noir genre, and this is his very best book yet. Outstanding’ Ragnar Jónasson

‘Slick, compelling and taut, Thomas Enger combines a sophisticated layers of mysteries with an intensely scarred hero embarked on a tragic quest. A dark and suspenseful blast of Nordic exposure’ Chris Ewan

‘The Killing took us by surprise, The Bridge was a good follow-up, but the political drama Borgen knocked spots of both. For readers who enjoy these Scandinavian imports, this novel is a treat … the dialogue is sharp and snappy, and the characters seem to come alive in this sophisticated and suspenseful tale’ Jessica Mann, Literary Review

‘It has real strengths: the careful language, preserved in the fine translation, and its haunted journalist hero … An intriguing series’ Guardian

‘A powerful new voice and a writer I will follow with great interest’ Raven Crime Reads

‘Suspenseful, dark and gritty, this is a must-read’ Booklist

‘This promises to be a crime fiction series worth watching’ Library Journal

‘The careful revealing of clues, the clever twists, and the development of Henning Juul and the supporting characters make this a very promising start to a new series’ Suspense Magazine

‘Superbly compelling … the characters leap right off the page, and the relationship between them is as twisted and complex as the story itself’ Shotsmag

‘Thomas Enger writes a murderous thriller that begs comparison to Jussi Adler-Olsen or Stieg Larsson. With Cursed Enger has proved that he definitely belongs in the top ten of Scandinavian authors’ literaturmarkt.info

‘Unexpected and surprising … like a fire in the middle of a snowfall’ Panorama ‘Thomas Enger is like a bottle of very good red wine. With time he just gets better and better.

Cursed is a top-class crime thriller from a top-class author’ Mokka

‘A fascinating addition to the Scandinavian Noir genre. I look forward to the series unfolding’ Crimesquad

Cursed is visceral and heartfelt – a gripping deep-dive into the secrets that hold families together and tear them apart’ Crime by the Book

‘Spine-chilling and utterly unputdownable. Thomas Enger has created a masterpiece of intrigue, fast-paced action and suspense that is destined to become Nordic Noir classic’ Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

 

 

REVIEW: PIERCED By Thomas Enger (translated by Charlotte Barslund)

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The acclaimed author of Burned is back with more heart-stopping suspense in a gritty and thrilling sequel that pits Norwegian crime reporter Henning Juul against an international crime ring.

Oslo’s top investigative crime reporter Henning Juul is still haunted by the death of his son. Every time he looks in the mirror, he sees the scars from the horrible fire that killed his six-year-old boy. So when he receives a message from convicted murderer Tore Pulli, he can’t stop himself from following up: “If you find out who set me up, I’ll tell you what happened the day your son died.

 

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Please don’t let the fact that the blurb above says “sequel” make you disregard this book because you haven’t read the first book Burned because I haven’t either and I didn’t have one iota of a problem getting into this story and following the plot.

Henning Juul is an investigative journalist in Oslo whose son was killed in a fire at Henning’s home that has left him scarred and disfigured. Little by little , Henning has come back from the brink of death and now, two years later, has returned to work at the online magazine 123News.  Soon after returning, he receives a call from convicted murderer Tore Pulli, a previous enforcer turned property developer, who asks Henning to help prove his innocence; in exchange, he will tell him who was behind the fire at his flat that killed his son. Henning jumps at the offer and begins his own investigation into the murder for which Tore Pulli was convicted. Suffice it to say, there are ruthless people who aren’t too thrilled that Henning is turning over stones and kicking up dust and it’s not long before he realizes his own life is at risk. So many questions start to haunt him…Has he made a deal with the devil? Does Tore Pulli really know who set fire to his flat or is he stringing Henning along to get himself out of prison? What was Henning investigating before the fire that someone wanted to silence him for? Since he has no memory of the weeks prior to the fire, Henning knows that if he can answer this third question, he’ll find out who’s responsible for his son’s death.

I know I’ve focused so far on Henning’s investigation of Tore Pulli, but it’s important to note that there are several threads to this story which bring us a wide variety of compelling characters, all of whom had intriguing backstories and storylines.  I literally had no idea how or if they’d all tie in together but rest assured,  Enger has a plan and it’s masterfully executed! While the plot is complex, not once did I feel lost.  In fact, I was so enthralled by the characters and the layered mystery that I couldn’t turn the pages quick enough. At one point I thought to myself…stop trying to figure it all out and sit back and enjoy being completely snowed over by the addictive plot and perfect pacing! This brings me to my need to highlight Enger’s brilliant use of short chapters with cliffhanger endings. I just couldn’t stop reading as I HAD to know how things would turn out from one chapter to the next..the result was a binge readathon in which I finished this book in about a day and a half. And that included a day of traveling involving 2 flights, 2 airports etc in which my kindle was basically stuck to my face.

Pierced has MANY strengths in addition to the ones I’ve just discussed but the one I really want to emphasize is Enger’s ability to bring Henning, along with a cast of other memorable characters to life. For better or worse (some are truly frightening), they were realistic and multidimensional. I read somewhere that when you find a character that you connect with, root for, sympathize with whatever, then you, the reader, will follow that character wherever he/she goes and that’s how I feel about Henning Juul. He could’ve been folding laundry, driving through McDonald’s etc and I would follow him because that’s just how connected I am to this character. Of course, something exciting would probably end up happening to him while he folded the laundry, but you get my point. This book, in particular, and the series overall have everything I look for in a crime story and I can’t wait to see what Enger has in store for us in the future!

5/5 Stars

 

**Pierced is book two in a planned 5 book series featuring Henning Juul.  Be sure to check back on Wednesday when it’s my stop on the blog tour for Thomas Enger’s newest novel, Cursed!!

BLOGGER RECOGNITION AWARD

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I’m so thrilled and thankful to Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe,  Jen at Jenmedsbookreviews, Kristin at KristinNovelCafe, Jo at Josbookblog, and Emma at EmmaBookishCorner for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition. This means so much to me as I’m fairly new to this wonderful blogging community. These are all blogs I make sure to visit daily for their new posts so please stop by each of them, they’re fantastic!

 Rules of this award:

Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
Write a post to show your award
Give a brief story of how your blog started
Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to
Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide a link to the post you have created

How I Got Started

I had been wanting to start a blog for over 2 years but being pretty tech-challenged I always felt like I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get started. Finally, in the fall, at the encouragement of my book club I signed up for WordPress and got to work setting up Its Book Talk . I had the intention of putting my reviews and recommendations into the world and hoping someone would find them helpful and at the same time maybe I’d be able to connect with a few people to discuss books. I quickly discovered an entire community of like minded readers who all love to talk about books!! I had absolutely no idea this type of blogging community existed and it’s been the best surprise ever! I have met so many wonderful bloggers from all over the world and I feel honored to call many of them my friends.

Advice

Everyone has their own method of reviewing, but something I always try to think about before sitting down to write is to be honest. I try to convey the different parts of a story and how well they worked or didn’t work in my opinion. I always picture the author possibly reading my review so if there are things that may not have worked for me I make sure to convey that in a respectful manner.

Try to interact as much as possible with other bloggers by commenting on posts and reviews. For me, what has made this whole blogging experience so fun is chatting with others in the blogging community. I appreciate each and every time someone has taken the time to leave a comment!!

 

In addition to the awesome ladies above who nominated me (thank you again:) , I’d like to nominate 15 fantastic blogs, each one providing their own unique spin on blogging. I love visiting these blogs for their variety of posts and reviews so please make sure to check them out!!

 

Amy at Novel Gossip

Annie at The Misstery

Janel at Keeper of Pages

Danielle at Books Vertigo and Tea

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Ann Marie at Lit Wit Wine and Dine

Abby at Crime By the Book

Rebecca at Boofsbooks

Donna at Chocolate N Waffles

Chelsea at The Suspense is Thrilling Me

Victor at My Poor TBR

Diana at A Haven for Booklovers

Fictionfan at Fiction Fan

Megan at Bookslayerreads

Wendy at Little Booknesslane

Happy Reading to all and thank you for visiting and supporting my blog! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

My Pick this week is:

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Published Feb 2001 by William Morrow

My Rating: 5/5 stars

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened — something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay — demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy’s daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy’s daughter died covered in someone else’s blood.

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves. 

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Well , Dennis Lehane, one of my very favorite authors, has now had 2 books profiled on my Throwback Thursday post!!  I was chilled by this story. The 3 boys just hanging out doing what young boys do when that car pulls up and nothing is ever the same! What I find extra interesting about this story is that the premise is based on an actual event in Dennis Lehane’s real life. I heard him speak when I attended a book signing about 3 years ago at a local university (yes I fangirled all evening) and he told how the idea for this story came about…when he was a young boy he and 2 friends had an incident with a stranger in a car and while everything turned out fine (the man ended up being a cop I believe) the feelings, especially his mother’s reaction, stayed with him and many years later became the basis for this fantastic book and then a movie. This book kept me on the edge of my seat and I remember not figuring out any part of the mystery!! Always a plus. To me, this is what a psychological thriller is all about and I loved everything about it!!

Happy Reading!

Have you read this or think you’d like to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments

For more Throwback Thursday recommendations visit Rebecca The Book Whisperer at Boofsbooks

REVIEW: THE GATES OF EVANGELINE By Hester Young

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Published Sept 2015 By G.P. Putnam Sons

Goodreads Blurb

From a unique new talent comes a fast-paced debut, introducing a heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will heal or destroy those around her . . .When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them. The Gates of Evangeline is a Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist

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The above blurb is an edited version of the one found on Goodreads and I urge you to stick with this version. This is a book I went into pretty blind after my friend Annie at The Misstery highly recommended it. When she said it was an atmospheric southern novel with an amazing mystery that’s pretty much all I needed to hear!

The beginning of the story was, for me, a pretty slow burn set up of the rest of the book, but that’s not a negative at all as I found it quite interesting.  We meet Charlie who’s struggling to put her life back together following the sudden death of her young son. I really felt for her and thought the author did a great job weaving in the details of Charlie’s day to day fight to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I felt a connection with her character fairly quickly which is so important to me if I’m going to stay engaged with a story and want to keep turning the pages. Soon, Charlie begins having dreams, very particular ones, that involve children. These dreams eventually lead her to Louisiana where the plot really takes off.

The remainder of the novel centers on a sprawling mystery that had its beginnings 30 years ago when 3 year old Gabriel Deveau vanished without a trace from his locked bedroom in the Evangeline estate. There are so many threads to this mystery, several key players who may or may not be involved but all of whom have a stake in the outcome in one way or another.  I have to say, the setting of a gothic southern estate in the swampy town of Evangeline was perfect and contributed to the claustrophobic feel of the story.

 Needless to say, Charlie becomes entangled in the story of Gabriel’s disappearance (among other things) and along the way finds herself questioning if she can trust the alliances she has made. Through the peeling back of the layers of this mystery we get to know Charlie better and while, on the one hand, I really liked her and felt she was there for the right reasons, there were also many times her character came across as very judgmental of southern people. Some of the off handed comments she made about townspeople and Noah were patronizing and made her seem as if she thought she was better than them. This bothered me because it didn’t seem to be congruent with what we knew of her character before she went to Louisiana.

 Other than the character inconsistency, I have to say I really enjoyed this book.  I love that the author told the story in a linear format. There was no jumping back and forth of timeframes or narrators and I’m finding that I really prefer this method of storytelling. In my opinion, it keeps the story flowing which keeps the pace quick. I was also completely on board with the use of premonitions as well as the web like mystery that kept me guessing until the final pages.  Just when I thought I had it figured out, the author dropped a bomb or added another detail which caused me to constantly change my mind…I LOVE it when that happens! If you like well plotted mysteries with a little something different thrown in, I would highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book.  The second book in the series, The Shimmering Road,  was just published Feb 9 and it’s at the top of my TBR so the good news is..there’s more to come.

4/5 Stars

Many thanks G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley and Hester Young for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review.

REVIEW: MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE By Sophie Kinsella

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Published February 7th by The Dial Press

I’ve decided not to include a blurb with this review as I think it really gives too much of the plot away. I’m finding that this seems to be the case quite a lot lately. As we all know, sometimes it’s best not to know so much about a book before diving in as the fun of reading is often being surprised and not always knowing what’s around the corner.

In My Not So Perfect Life, we meet Katie Brenner who seems to have a pretty fabulous life…at least that’s what she portrays on Instagram. She’s got a job she (mostly) loves, is living in London, her dream city, and has recently developed an oh so little crush on a guy she’s just met. In fact, if you believe her Instagram feed,  she’s also frequenting posh restaurants and taking in all the London hot spots. Question is, is that her real life??

As is often the case, things in Katie’s “real” life aren’t all that rosy as her boss Demeter is somewhat of a disorganized nut who seems to be on the verge of a breakdown at times. Her apartment is crap and for the most part she’s financially broke. When things at work go from bad to worse, Katie decides to make some changes in her life. Where those changes will lead her, especially when life throws her some curveballs, is anyone’s guess but many readers will definitely enjoy finding out.

I want to preface the rest of my review by saying that I’ve read ALL of Sophie Kinsella’s standalones and have given all of them a 3 star rating or better. I was thrilled when Netgalley approved my request back in the fall as I’ve literally been waiting since the spring of 2014 when Wedding Night was published (5 stars from me) for her next standalone. So…it pains me to say that for many reasons this book didn’t work for me. While I think it started off fairly strong in typical Sophie Kinsella style with quick dialogue, snappy prose and such a complete readability in terms of how she presents a story, by about 35% I found myself debating about putting it in the DNF pile and moving on. What I feel was the biggest obstacle for me was that it was narrated in the first person perspective by Katie. In my opinion, Katie whined a lot, went off on random tangents, and just seemed to blather on and on so often I found myself hoping for a break from her. Not to mention some of her “revenge” tactics I found extremely immature and too over the top which resulted in me liking her even less. Ultimately, I think it was my extreme lack of connection to Katie that caused me to have issues with the whole story. For me, when I combine the first person narration with what I felt was A LOT of unnecessary “filler” in terms of her parents farm and the goings on there, it became a disappointing read. I did, however, continue reading with the slight hope that perhaps I would feel different after I saw how it all played out but in the end this story just didn’t work for me. All that being said,  I’ll still be waiting impatiently for her next standalone. Here’s hoping it comes sooner rather than later!

2/5 Stars

I would highly recommend Twenties Girl, Can You Keep a Secret, and Wedding Night if you’re interested in trying some of her other standalones

Many Thanks to Netgalley and Random House/ The Dial Press for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review.

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

My Pick this week is:

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Published June 2010 by Ballantine Books

My rating: 5/5 Stars

The circumstances of Molly Marx’s death may be suspicious, but she hasn’t lost her joie de vivre. Newly arrived in the hereafter, aka the Duration, Molly, thirty-five years old, is delighted to discover that she can still keep tabs on those she left behind: Annabel, her beloved four-year-old daughter; Lucy, her combustible twin sister; Kitty, her piece-of-work mother-in-law; Brie, her beautiful and steadfast best friend; and, of course, her husband, Barry, a plastic surgeon with more than a professional interest in many of his female patients. As a bonus, Molly quickly realizes that the afterlife comes with a finely tuned bullshit detector.

As Molly looks on, her loved ones try to discern whether her death was an accident, suicide, or murder. She was last seen alive leaving for a bike ride through New York City’s Riverside Park; her body was found lying on the bank of the Hudson River. Did a stranger lure Molly to danger? Did she plan to meet someone she thought she could trust? Could she have ended her own life for mysterious reasons, or did she simply lose control of her bike? As the police question her circle of intimates, Molly relives the years and days that led up to her sudden end: her marriage, troubled yet tender; her charmed work life as a magazine decorating editor; and the irresistible colleague to whom she was drawn.

More than anything, Molly finds herself watching over Annabel–and realizing how motherhood helped to bring out her very best self. As the investigation into her death proceeds, Molly will relive her most precious moments–and take responsibility for the choices in her life.

Exploring the bonds of fidelity, family, and friendship, and narrated by a memorable and endearing character, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a hilarious, deeply moving, and thought-provoking novel that is part mystery, part love story, and all heart. 

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This book was recommended to me by a good reading friend 2 years ago and as soon as she mentioned the title my mind kind of went ‘meh’ as my initial thought was it’s a weird title  and then my mind quickly thinks ‘I don’t know if I want to read that.’ I really find it so interesting how I can so quickly disregard books because of the cover or title. When will I learn? I’m so glad I listened to my friend and picked this one up because it ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2015. Now, I know a lot of you might jump over to Goodreads, see the ratings for this, and promptly disregard it but I urge you to give it a try if you like your love story/drama with a side of mystery and humor.  I definitely do. I loved that Molly narrated the story,  she was witty yet wistful as she no longer had the life she (at one time) loved. A life that included her daughter whom she very much loved. What made this so original for me was the fact that Molly gets to find out how she ended up dead right along with us. There are times she laughs at her situation as did I and times she cries…as did I…sitting poolside if I remember correctly. Not the best time for crying! If you’re looking for a book that has a little bit of mystery, humor, and heartbreak all rolled up in a one sit read, give this a try.

Happy Reading!

Have you read this one or think you’d like to? I’d love to hear from you in the comments

For another TBT recommendation, check out Rebecca The Book Whisperer’s blog.

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY

Hi Everyone! I’ve got a super busy week so I want to apologize in advance for my lack of reviews this week. I promise to catch up this weekend:) In the meantime…. 

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Each Wednesday you get to highlight a book that your really looking forward to. This week I’ve chosen one of my most anticipated reads of 2017:

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From the author of We Are Called to Rise (one of my top reads of 2016)  comes a novel about the interconnected lives of four women in Las Vegas, each of whom experiences a life-changing moment at a classic casino nightclub.

Spanning the six decades when Las Vegas grew from a dusty gambling town into the melting pot metropolis it is today, ‘Round Midnight is the story of four women—one who falls in love, one who gets lucky, one whose heart is broken, and one who chooses happiness—whose lives change at the Midnight Room.

June Stein and her husband open the El Capitan casino in the 1950s, and rocket to success after hiring a charismatic black singer to anchor their nightclub. Their fast-paced lifestyle runs aground as racial tensions mount.

Honorata leaves the Philippines as a mail order bride to a Chicago businessman, then hits a jackpot at the Midnight Room when he takes her on a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Engracia, a Mexican immigrant whose lucky find at the Midnight Room leads to heartbreak, becomes enmeshed in Honorata’s secret when she opens her employer’s door to that Chicago businessman—and his gun.

And then there is Coral, an African-American teacher who struggles with her own mysterious past. A favor for Honorata takes her to the Midnight Room, where she hits a jackpot of another kind.

Mining the rich territory of motherhood and community, ‘Round Midnight is a story that mirrors the social transformation of our nation. Full of passion, heartbreak, heroism, longing, and suspense, it honors the reality of women’s lives. 

Round Midnight is set to be published May 2, 2017 by Touchstone and it can’t come soon enough for me! Oh, and that cover is just fantastic!! I really enjoyed We Are Called To Rise so I’m excited to see what Laura McBride has in store for us with this story

Happy Reading!